Namibia should look at West Africa and other parts of the continent where aviation markets collapsed after governments allowed big and well-resourced airlines to enter their markets without protecting local airlines.
The far-reaching implications have been the collapse of domestic aviation sectors in some of these countries, including the demise of national airlines.
This is the observation of Advocate Mandy Samson, Air Namibia’s Acting Managing Director, in reaction to the recent announcement of flights to Windhoek by Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines.
“These foreign airlines move to other areas once your market is done and the cost of restoration of what was there before becomes unbearable, resulting in permanent loss of air transport infrastructure and accessibility to a once well-connected country,” Samson said.
“This risk is real. Not only to the local airlines but to the whole economic system.”
She also noted that the new competition will not be bringing new traffic flows but will be “cannibalising” traffic flows, which Air Namibia is already carrying from existing source markets.
“Air Namibia has spent quite a lot of money in developing and promoting the country as a tourist destination and we have managed to grow the market for the country as a route more than four times over the past 12 years or so. Now the foreign airlines have spotted a developed market and that is really what is attracting them here,” said Samson.
“Ultimately the medium to long-term view with the entrance of three global carriers, namely, Qatar Airways, KLM and Ethiopian Airlines, would depend on the motivations of these carriers entering the market.”
“We maintain the view of being optimistic, and we will ensure the airline continues to remain competitive and improve our service offerings to retain market share on routes where traditionally we have had high passenger figures, which means we will do what we can to retain the passenger figures for the Frankfurt route.”
Air Namibia, while appreciative of government support, has also emphasised that investment in infrastructure, specifically for ground handling and terminal development, would be necessary to accommodate the additional airlines.
“At terminal level and with additional staff, the owner of the infrastructure would need to advise if all the necessary arrangements have been made,” said Samson.